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Alphabet Soup of Spring Football Leagues Coming

NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, center, talks to reporters Wednesday, July 19, 2000, in Chicago after Vince McMahon, chairman of the World Wrestling Federation, right, announced that Butkus would coach Chicago's XFL football team. Photo: Charles Bennett | AP Photo

By Evan Weiner |

If the best laid plans of mice and men work out, April 2020 will be saturated with football as at least three spring leagues will be up and going: Vince McMahon’s XFL, the Spring League and another one called the Alliance of American Football.

But to suggest that McMahon and Peter Thiel are bringing the American public something that is unavailable in 2018 is a bit of a stretch. There are spring football leagues playing now. The Spring League doesn’t play many games. In fact there are just four matches on the schedule and all of the games are in Austin, Texas. It is a showcase for former NFL players looking for a second or third or fourth chance at making a squad. Players are not paid. They do get room and board for a few weeks and in fact have to pay the league to get a roster spot. There is also the National Arena League, which is a minor indoor circuit.

The question of why so many people are getting involved in football when football is allegedly on a downward spiral has not been answered. McMahon and Thiel are big time operators and Thiel has a deal with CBS and has some names involved in the business including Bill Polian. But spring leagues have come and gone with the most successive being the United States Football League which lasted three years between 1983 and 1985. USFL owners had a lot of things going for them, a TV deal, the use of NFL stadiums and fan interest. Ultimately league owners could not manage budgets and lost millions upon millions of dollars and while the league did win an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in 1986, a jury awarded USFL owners a buck that was tripled and the USFL owners threw in the towel. Spring time football is a costly endeavor which is why it has not been a success.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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